Deuteronomy 26, Psalm 117-118, Isaiah 53, Matthew 1


As I read this morning, my attention was drawn to the power of God, exhibited by His mercy.
 
Inevitability, when a person rises to power, there is a certain level of anticipation or fear by those under their influence.  There is always the question, will this person abuse their authority or will they use it for good?    Another way to ask the question is will they use their power for "me and mine" or for those who have no power or influence? 
 
While reading Deuteronomy 26:8-12, I noticed God described as the one who delivered with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, signs, and wonders.  The LORD then places the people in a land flowing with milk and honey.  But He expresses His concern for the Levite, sojourner, fatherless and widow.  Then He commands the people to care for those with no power or influence. 
 
Psalm 117 also displays God's power and mercy, but not as obviously as Deuteronomy 26.  Paul uses this passage in Romans 15:11, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all people extol him."  The Psalmist said all the nations should praise the Lord.  Paul explicitly calls the nations "Gentiles."  All mankind should praise the Lord, not just Israelites.  Verse two explains why everyone should praise and exalt God.  The ESV says "For great is his steadfast love toward us."  The Hebrew word for steadfast love is just one word, hesed.  As is often the case in translating other languages to English, much of the depth of meaning is lost.  This Hebrew word means goodness, kindness, faithfulness, loyalty, and mercy that is steadfast based on a prior relationship.  Vines, a dictionary I use, says that to understand the meaning of hesed three ideas must be combined:  strength, steadfastness, and love.  Power is necessary to assure the ability to fulfill steadfast love. 
 
It seemed to me these passages set the stage for Isaiah 53.  For believers, this is probably the most well known chapter in Isaiah.  Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is presented in extraordinary detail.  It would be easy while reading this passage to see the Suffering Servant as one of those without power or influence.  But Isaiah 53 addresses this thought immediately in verse one by asking, Who would believe what we said?  Who would have seen the powerful arm of the LORD in this?
 
The Suffering Servant is a display of the same powerful arm of God that brought the Israelites into the promised land.  The same LORD whose strength assures steadfast love is the One who reveals the Suffering Servant.  The NLT translates Isaiah 53:12 as "I will give him (the Suffering Servant) the honors of a victorious soldier because he exposed himself to death.  He was counted among the rebels.  He bore the sins of many and interceded for the rebels."  Jesus is both the Suffering Servant and the Victorious Soldier; the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah.
 
Holy Trinity, You alone are all powerful and all good.  Forgive us for putting our trust in men or princes.  There is always the question of how they will use their position.  But there is no doubt how You use Your power.  You are merciful.  You use Your great power and authority to be merciful to undeserving rebels, like me!

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